State wildlife group mulls local chapter


By Gregory DL Morris

Friday, May 19 is Endangered Species Day, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

While there are no formal activities in the immediate Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, the Greensboro Science Center, the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, and the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher are all having events on Saturday May 20th. Details of those and other events in the region and around the country can be found on the website of the Endangered Species Coalition.

Even closer, the Museum of Life & Science in Durham is home to a pack of critically endangered red wolves. Northeastern North Carolina is home to the only wild red wolves left in the country, on the Albemarle Peninsula.

“It’s a day to raise awareness for the species we’re most at risk of losing” wrote Liz Rutledge, director of Wildlife Resources for the North Carolina Wildlife Federation in an e-mail message. “It certainly doesn’t seem like a day to celebrate in the traditional sense, particularly when so many North Carolina species – such as Atlantic sturgeon, Carolina northern flying squirrel, red wolf, and bog turtle – are imperiled.”

On a positive note, Sen. Ted Budd has joined Sen. Thom Tillis in co-sponsoring a bipartisan wildlife conservation bill, the  Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), which will dedicate $1.4 billion annually toward efforts to help fish and wildlife species in decline, including $97.5 million annually to fund proactive wildlife conservation efforts led by Native American tribes.

In North Carolina, the bill would send $25.4 million to the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission, which the agency will use to implement its wildlife action plan.

“North Carolinians can be extremely proud that our senators are once again among the first to champion this bill, which is the most important piece of wildlife legislation in half a century,” wrote Tim Gestwicki, CEO of NCWF, in a May 9 statement. “Wildlife are in crisis across the country, and this bold, bipartisan bill will tackle the problem at the scale that is needed, without raising taxes or creating new regulations.”

NCWF has more than a dozen community chapters across the state, and is exploring forming one in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro-Hillsborough area. Its website has more information on endangered species, and contact information for those interested in joining the new local chapter.

For all the progress over half a century, the Endangered Species Act itself remains endangered. One of its greatest successes is the reintroduction of gray wolves to several western states, and the spectacular recovery of entire ecosystems once the apex predator restored the natural balance.

Shockingly, there continue to be serious efforts to delist the gray wolf, and other keystone species. Those efforts are based on ignorance, superstition, and the narrow views of special interests. They are completely at odds with science and conservation practice.

This week, honor Endangered Species Day by writing to your legislative and regulatory officials, federal and state, and tell them how important wildlife is to you and all Americans. Then, one day soon, we can celebrate the day properly, with a happy howl.

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